Hyundai Santa Cruz Pickup Truck by 2017?
Rumors of a Hyundai pickup truck have been flying around for a few years now, with the most substantial being a rumored tie-up with Chrysler-Fiat. While that particular rumor has died, a new (and well sourced) rumor has Hyundai importing a mid-size pickup truck in 2017.
The truck would be based on the long wheel base version of the Santa Fe, would be built in Korea (Ulsan), and would challenge the Tacoma, the soon-to-debut Chevy Colorado, and the Nissan Frontier for a slice of the North American pickup truck market. This truck would also be sold outside North America to compete with the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux.
What follows is an analysis of this rumored truck, with informed estimates about this truck’s name, configuration, and specs. As always, we’ve taken the time to consult with various sources in the industry when preparing this estimate. This isn’t to say that what we’re presenting here is factual, but we feel it’s a good first guess at Hyundai’s future truck plans…and there are a lot of reasons to expect this pickup in 2017 or 2018.
First, Why Is Hyundai Going To Start Selling Trucks?
There are a few great reasons for Hyundai to start selling trucks in 2017:
- The “chicken tax”, a 25% tariff on imported trucks, expires in 2017.
- Fuel economy and emissions regulations will force full-size truck manufacturers to add on a lot of expensive fuel saving features beginning in 2017. As full-size truck prices increase, the market for mid-size trucks (which won’t need the same costly fuel sipping features) could grow.
- The cost of developing a pickup from the existing Santa Fe platform is relatively cheap compared to developing a truck from scratch. By focusing on 4-door mid-size truck buyers, Hyundai can essentially bolt a bed onto the back of an existing platform and start selling (eg., the Honda Ridgeline).
- Trucks are generally very profitable, and profits are the name of this game.
What’s In A Name?
We’ve guessed that the name of this truck will be the Santa Cruz, partially because that name is a logical connection with the parent model Santa Fe, and partially because Hyundai seems to like naming their products after cities in the Southwestern USA.
- Santa Fe – mid-size SUV
- Tucson – a smaller SUV
- Veracruz – a larger crossover SUV that’s been discontinued
See the pattern? They’re all Southwestern cities, and there’s an alphabetical order here too. Possible names for the Hyundai truck might be:
- Santa Cruz (our guess)
All of these are well-known Southwestern city names, and all of them sound like good pickup truck names (at least to me). However, for simplicity’s sake, we’ll refer to the rumored Hyundai as a “Santa Cruz” for now, subject to revision.
Since the Santa Fe is the platform for this future pickup, it stands to reason that the Santa Fe’s powertrain options will be offered on this truck as well. Since the truck will be based on the long wheelbase version of the Santa Fe, Hyundai’s 3.3L V6 seems probable. Producing 290hp and 252lb-ft of torque, the 3.3L V6 will likely be a capable challenger to engines offered by Toyota and Nissan.
|Hyundai Pickup||Toyota Tacoma||Nissan Frontier|
|3.3L V6||4.0L V6||4.0L V6|
|Direct Injection, DOHC||DOHC||DOHC|
|290hp at 6400 RPM||236hp at 5200 RPM||261hp at 5600 RPM|
|252 lb-ft at 5200 RPM||266 lb-ft at 4000 RPM||281 lb-ft at 4000 RPM|
However, it’s worth pointing out that the 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder available in the 5-passenger Santa Fe Sport is very comparable to the V6 – 264hp and 269lb-ft of torque. It may be that the 2.0L turbo is the primary engine in the Santa Cruz at some point. It’s also possible that Hyundai will offer a small diesel engine (they currently offer a 2.2L diesel on the Santa Fe in Europe), only there are cost concerns with offering this engine in the USA.
As far as putting power to the ground, it’s safe to assume the Santa Cruz would be offered as either a FWD or AWD with a 6-speed automatic. While a 6-speed manual is offered on the Santa Fe sold in Europe, all of the sources we consulted state that it’s unlikely to be offered in the USA.
Towing and Hauling
The maximum payload on a decked-out AWD Santa Fe LWB is about 1300lbs, with a curb weight of 4300 lbs. If we assume that Hyundai will be able to save weight replacing the back end of a 7-passenger SUV with a pickup bed, than a 1500 lbs max payload rating seems perfectly reasonable.
As for towing, a max tow rating of 5,000 lbs seems likely. Based on my discussions with automotive engineers over the years, you can get any mid-size vehicle on the road to pull 3,500lbs with minimal investment. To get to 5,000lbs towing, however, Hyundai will likely need to invest in some frame strengthening, larger brakes, and additional cooling for the engine and transmission.
It may be that Hyundai will decide against making this investment…if market analysis concludes that your average 4-door mid-size truck buyer can “get by” with 3,500 lbs tow capacity, Hyundai might save their pennies on upgrading the frame, brakes, etc.
Cabs, Beds and Pricing
The Santa Cruz will be offered as a crew cab with a 5′ bed. The reasons for offering only one cab option are many:
- A four-door cab is by far the most popular choice for recreational truck buyers.
- The shorter 5′ or 5.5′ bed is the most popular length for buyers of both full-size four door trucks and buyers of the Tacoma and Frontier.
- Fewer options and configurations reduce costs.
- The Santa Cruz is going to be designed with a worldwide marketplace in mind, and a 5′ bed is just fine everywhere in the world. Only buyers in the USA ask for longer bed lengths.
It’s safe to assume Hyundai will offer the same trim levels as the Santa Fe – a GLS and a Limited. Pricing should fall between $30 and $35k, making the Santa Cruz pricing very comparable to pricing on similar four door Tacomas and Frontiers.
Holes In Our Analysis
No responsible prediction can be offered without discussing some of the limitations of the prediction being offered. The biggest “hole” in this analysis is that the mid-size pickup truck market isn’t expected to grow. It’s unusual for an automaker to invest in building a product for a declining market segment (but not unheard of).
Additionally, fuel economy and emissions regulations will make selling pickup trucks much harder after 2020. While Hyundai undoubtedly has a plan to get the Santa Fe to meet all the fuel economy requirements, making a pickup truck that will also pass these requirements may be cost-prohibitive (assuming small sales volume, that is). Of course, a longer wheelbase pickup truck doesn’t have to meet the same targets as the base SUV, so there may not be a problem here.
Finally, the biggest problem is that no one at Hyundai has confirmed any of this.
Still, we believe that Hyundai is going to bring the truck described above to the USA in 4 years or so, and none of the people we talked to thought our analysis was unreasonable.
What do you think – will Hyundai build the truck as described, or will it be different? Or will there be no truck at all?
Filed Under: Auto News